11th Annual Chautauqua Tent Show: "America on Stage"

Re-enactor portraying the Lone Ranger, a featured performer at Lewes, Delaware's 2009 Chautauqua. Tent from a previous Chautauqua

A quintessentially American cultural experience will be brought to life during the "11th Annual Chautauqua Tent Show: 'America on Stage'" that will take place at a variety of downtown Lewes, Delaware locations including the Zwaanendael Museum, Stango Park, and the Lewes Historical Society from June 21-25, 2009.

A unique mixture of education and entertainment, Lewes' Chautauqua will be held under a large tent and will feature re-enactors who take on the persona of celebrated historical figures, educating and entertaining audiences as they bring the past to life. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and interact with the featured characters who will include P.T. Barnum, Frederick Douglass, William Shakespeare, David Douglass, the Lone Ranger, and Annie Oakley. The U.S. Navy Commodores jazz ensemble will also perform on June 23. Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information, call 302-645-1148 or click here for a complete listing of activities.

Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation's rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (or colloquially, Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies, and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.

Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors take on the persona of celebrated historical figures, speaking and interacting with audiences, often in the setting of a large outdoor tent. In Delaware, modern Chautauquas have been presented annually since 1999 under the auspices of the Delaware Humanities Forum featuring a wide variety of historical figures including John Philip Sousa; Clifford Brown; Benjamin Franklin; Sacagawea, a Shoshoni Indian guide; Mark Twain; Harriet Tubman; and Delaware patriot Caesar Rodney. In 2009, Delaware's 11th annual Chautauqua is co-sponsored by the Lewes Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, with grant support from the Delaware Humanities Forum.